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City of Burlington Declares Climate Emergency


Last night (April 23), during the Burlington City Council meeting, we unanimously passed a motion — brought forward by Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan — to declare a climate emergency.

Numerous cities around the world have recently declared climate emergencies in response to findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that we have only 12 years to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5 C, beyond which any further increase would significantly worsen the risk to hundreds of millions of people of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty. London (UK), Los Angeles, Vancouver, Halifax, Kingston and Hamilton have each declared climate emergencies recently.

The City of Burlington has already felt the effects of climate change over the past several years. Climate change is currently ranked as the third highest risk on the City’s Enterprise Risk Register, which measures overall risk to the City.

“By declaring a climate emergency, Burlington City Council is recognizing the magnitude of the challenge we face in combating climate change. But it is only one step. Through the declaration, we have requested a comprehensive climate action plan by the end of the year and that plan is where we will begin to make real, practical change for Burlington.” — Ward 3 Burlington Councillor Rory Nisan

The City of Burlington is currently updating many of its plans in relation to climate change including our Community Energy Plan (transitioning to the Climate Action Plan), Corporate Energy Management Plan, Storm Water Design Standards and Urban Forest Management Plan. The City has also set the important goal for city operations to be net carbon neutral by 2040 and work towards being a net carbon neutral community.

The climate emergency declaration would increase the city’s ambition on climate change initiatives, including in the community, and provide staff and residents with clarity of purpose regarding Council’s view of the importance of climate change.

Action items from the declaration include:

  • That the City of Burlington declare a climate emergency for the purposes of deepening our commitment to protecting our economy, environment and community from climate change;
  • That Council and staff immediately increase the priority of the fight against climate change and apply a climate lens to the plans and actions of the City of Burlington including the Council strategic workplan and future budgets;
  • That staff are directed to bring a report to the June 3, 2019 Committee of the Whole meeting that outlines actions taken to date and includes a critical path for the development of the first City of Burlington Climate Action Plan that will:
    • address the operations of the corporation of the municipality as well as the functioning of the entire community;
    • include a plan for a thorough and complete consultation with stakeholders and the community;
    • increase action and ambition for the City’s climate change-related activities; and
    • include performance metrics to track progress and timelines for achieving key deliverables/major milestones, and a strategy to report back publicly on progress;
  • Direct the City Manager to bring back the Burlington Climate Action Plan to Council no later than December 2019 for approval.

Links and Resources


Kudos to Councillor Nisan for bringing this forward and all of council for their unanimous support. This is not the beginning for us, but another important step on a journey the city has been on for some time regarding climate action. Our health, livelihoods and futures are directly linked to the environment. Flooding, storms, water quality and air quality affect everything and everyone in our community. Real change requires all of us to work together. If our goals are to build a prosperous, healthy and green city for the long-term, we need to take serious, tangible action. Passing this declaration is another step in ensuring that we are doing everything we can to stop climate change — this companion motion includes timelines for action, as well as reporting back on initiatives that are already underway at the City of Burlington.

The city has been taking climate action initiatives for many years, including greening our fleet, installing EV chargers, changing street lights to LEDs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions in our public buildings, requiring low impact development techniques, addressing flooding in neighbourhoods, adding tree planting funds, developing a community energy plan, hosting solar panels on city roofs, investing in public transit, and many other initiatives. These are detailed in the State of the Environment report produced by staff and the Sustainable Development Committee. There is also information dedicated to our actions on the environment. And a Take Action Burlington blog with updates on our actions and ways the community can take action on climate change. 

These steps amount to millions of dollars every year to combating climate change, historically and going forward. We are also involved in initiatives that don’t cost us money, or are done in partnership with others. Going forward we know that we will need to do more, faster, and look to additional initiatives. Not all of this will require funding, and much of it can and will be done in partnership with other agencies and our community.

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9 thoughts on “City of Burlington Declares Climate Emergency”

  1. As long as I see items like outdoor “Fire Tables” for sale by major retailers in my weekly Burlington Post’s flyer collection, it is difficult to believe that our political leaders are serious about climate change. Fire Tables (not to be confused with barbecues for cooking) are nothing more than appliances for converting propane (a petroleum refining by-product) to carbon dioxide, water, and heat.
    I would not expect Doug Ford to take the leadership on this issue, but Burlington and Halton could set an example by banning the sale and use of these items ASAP.

  2. How can u say this at the same time large mature trees are being marked to be cut down all over my neighbourhood. Sounds like a pointless declaration, all the while the city’s actions speak louder than words. If u care then stop clear cutting our neighbourhoods.

  3. Pingback: Ottawa, Toronto, Burlington, and Victoria Step Up with New Action on Climate – Enjeux énergies et environnement

  4. What budget is the “Emergency” funding coming from?
    Talk is cheap, but funding studies takes real $$.
    Shouldn’t there have been a not to exceed cost for the staff to spend on a study?
    No wonder Burlington taxes keep rising faster than the inflation rate.

    1. The first definition of an emergency I found on Google is this one:

      a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.
      “your quick response in an emergency could be a lifesaver”
      synonyms: crisis, urgent situation, extremity, exigency; More
      • arising from or needed or used in an emergency.
      modifier noun: emergency
      “an emergency exit”
      synonyms: urgent, crisis; More
      • a person with a medical condition requiring immediate treatment.

      This fits only the “serious definition”, not “unexpected” and not “dangerous.” (not immediately impending as the definition implies by the usage statement.)

      Flagrant abuse of language is a pet peeve of mine. I would have been less upset about a climate action plan. But the motherhood and apple-pie language amounts to awareness, deepening commitments, Increasing ambitions, etc does not “fit” with a “crisis” definition.

      Opioids? Crisis. Mental Health? Crisis. Ford government? Crisis. (Okay – that last one is IMHO)

      Climate change? Not a crisis – by definition.

      Do we need to counter with appropriate action? Absolutely.

      But what should have been done was to create a stewardship commitment. Sounding alarm bells for false crisis makes us sound ridiculous and a lot like ….I’m not even gonna say it.

      Needless to say I’m disappointed.

  5. traffic congestion is one major contributor. Synchronized traffic lights and less population would help a lot.

  6. The photo of Locust Street was taken a few years ago when all was lush. Now we have lost 50% of the trees due to age, storms and now the Emerald Ash Borer.

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